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School Emergency Frequently Asked Questions

What is emergency preparedness?

The Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation has taken steps to insure your child's safety while in school. Each school has developed a crisis response plan. Emergency preparedness includes an all hazard approach to school safety that includes mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.   


Below are answers to some more Frequently Asked Questions:


How can I stay informed?

P-H-M school's broadcast emergency messages, when necessary, using a number of media options. General emergency messages, 2 -hour delays and closings can be found on the District website homepage. Emergency messages are sent by phone to all P-H-M families based on the emergency contact information provided to their child’s school using the School Messenger emergency notification systemParents and guardians need to make sure they have provided their latest updated contact information to their student(s) school(s). Emergency messages are provided to local media, and parents are encouraged to listen to radio or television.  Additionally, we utilize the P-H-M crisis call center (574-258-9561) if needed.


Click here to download a pdf copy of our School Emergency Guide for Parents.

How will my child's school handle an emergency situation?

All P-H-M School facilities have an emergency preparedness plan. The specifics of each plan differ for each location. The response to an emergency will differ based on the specifics of the crisis.  In general, each plan involves the designation of a crisis management team that conducts state required emergency drills.  These drills involve fire evacuation, shelter-in-place, severe weather, earthquake and lockdown procedures.  In response to a crisis, each plan includes a process of partent reunification to ensure all students are safe and reunited with parents.  All P-H-M School plans are reviewed, updated and communicated to the Department of Education within 60 days of the start of each school year.



How can I see the security plan for my child's school?

P-H-M School's do not release this type of specific information, pursuant to the Indiana Code 5-14-3-4. This law provides specific exclusions to the type of information that can be released. The Crisis Management Plan, includes a template which serves as the guide that schools use to construct their own site-specific plans in coordination with the Director of Safety, Security and Student Services and local emergency responders.


What is an Internal Lockdown?

An internal lockdown is initiated when a threat of danger is inside a school.   This emergency may prevent a safe evacuation and require steps to isolate students and faculty from danger.  In an interior lock down, teachers and staff are instructed to secure students in locked classrooms or behind locked doors.   Staff are asked to use the A.D.D. principle (AVOID, DENY, DEFEND) when faced with danger inside the school.  Avoid the threat, Deny access to a classroom or room by locking door and Defend yourself and students as required to safeguard the life of all.  The A.D.D principal requires staff to use discretion when safeguarding the lives of students.  While we have layers of security in place at all of our schools, we know decisions have to be made depending on the existing threat and exiting the building may be a life saving option.


What is an External Lockdown?

During an external lockdown, all school exterior doors are locked. This takes place if the threat is outside of the school. The business of learning continues in classrooms with administration monitoring doors and communicating with authorities.  If the situation allows, parents could be admitted into the school with proper identification.


If the school is in an external lockdown, what type of identification will I need to enter the school?
Once officials decide that it is safe for you to enter the building, you will need to show a proper form of identification such as a driver’s license, military ID, Penn-Harris-Madison school ID or other valid photo identification.  If a school has a reasonable suspicion of threat, they will not permit access to the school during an external lockdown.  


How will I know if a school is in an external lockdown?
The entrance doors will be locked and a sign may be posted on the doors indicating that the school is in a lockdown. All visitors will be directed to the front entrance to provide identification.  A message about the external lockdown may be available on the homepage of the District website and School Messenger emergency notification system may be utilized.


In the event of a large scale emergency situation, will P-H-M go into lockdown?

The specific actions taken by P-H-M School's in any emergency situation-both district wide and at individual schools will depend on the specifics of the situation. Any action taken would depend on several factors, including the type of threat and the advice of local, state, and federal agencies. The safety of students and staff members will be the primary concern in any decision.


What is shelter-in-place?

Shelter-in-Place refers to moving students and staff to interior rooms with few or no windows and taking refuge until the danger has passed.  This action is designed to keep students safe from any hazardous materials that have been released into the air.  Shelter-in-Place is used if it is determined that evacuation or dismissal could place students and staff at risk.


Shelter-in-place is a short-term measure designed to use a facility and its indoor atmosphere to temporarily separate people from a hazardous outdoor environment. 


If Parents are concerned about reuniting with their students, rest assured that when local authorities have clear the school to release students, a parent reunification process will take place at a designated school or location.  You will be asked to produce identification before the school will release the student to the parent.  This is all part of our parent reunification plan in the school emergency plans.


What measures are being taken for students in unattached buildings?

If an accident or attack that created contaminated air occurred in the nearby area, staff and students will be requested to shelter in the closest school building or building that is safe from harms way until the authorities have cleared the school or facility.


Why are you keeping children from their parents?

P-H-M does not intend to keep children from their parents if a crisis occurs during school hours or school activities. It is the schools intent to safeguard students based on the type of threat or emergency situation.  When authorities have cleared the school, students will be released to their parents.   Parents will be informed of the parent-student reunification center location via the School Messenger emergency notification system, crisis call center (574-258-9561), school websites or District website and local media.


What is a parent reunification site?

If public safety officials require that a school building be evacuated, students and staff members will be directed to a nearby safe location.  Students may be safely transported by bus to a designated school where a parent-student reunification center will be established. Parents will be informed of the reunification location via School Messenger emergency notification system, crisis call center (574-258-9561), school websites or District website and local media.


Why can't I be given the evacuation and parent reunification locations ahead of time?

P-H-M does not release this type of specific information, pursuant to the Indiana Code 5-14-3-4. This law provides specific exclusions to the type of information that can be released. Also, during emergency situations, circumstances could arise that might force changes to previously designated locations. Parents will be informed of parent-student reunification center locations via the local media and through school resources.


Are schools stockpiling food and water?

The school system evaluates resources on hand to determine needs for a short term (48 hours) shelter-in-Place.  P-H-M Food Service has a Crisis Plan in place for such emergency situations. In the event of a large-scale catastrophic event, P-H-M would rely on federal and state authorities for assistance.


There may be other local and national events that would result in sheltering, in such events, other community agencies, including the Red Cross, would be responsible for providing food and water. This response would be a shelter, not a shelter-in-place.


In all critical events of this magnitude, the school district becomes part of a larger emergency response team. The St. Joseph County Emergency Management Director and the county crisis response team are involved.  P-H-M has been approved to work with the American Red Cross for shelter facilities and Penn High School as well as Grissom Middle School will serve as a Mass Prophylaxis distribution site for St. Joesph County Health Department.


Does the school district have a food service crisis plan in place for such emergencies?

Most of the envisioned emergency situations would be localized short-term events and would not call for long-term supplies.However, P-H-M School's does have a Food Service Crisis Plan in place and updated annually by the Director of Food Service. This plan involves utilization of available food and drinks in each facility during this short term crisis event.


What if my child is riding a school bus at the time of a crisis?

School bus drivers will be in contact with the Office of Transportation for instructions in the event that a crisis occurs while students are in transport. Bus drivers will always use common sense in safeguarding all students.  Parents will be informed of the parent-student reunification center location via the School Messenger system, the school and/or District website and on the P-H-M , along with local media.  Crisis Call Center (574-258-9561) may also be activated for parents to call for information.


Can I pick up my child?

Parents are allowed to pick up their children unless public safety officials have declared a shelter-in-place response, or there is some other reason why access to the facility is restricted. During any emergency, school personnel will maintain as safe and normal environment for children within the school as is possible. School is not automatically canceled in emergency situations. Remember, school may be the safest place for children.


Who can pick up my children?

Children may not be released to individuals who are not authorized on the student's emergency care card or who do not have written parent authorization.


The emergency care form is completed by parents and guardians at the start of each school year. Parents and guardians are encouraged to update the emergency contact information as needed throughout the school year.


Friends and neighbors may sign a child or children out with written permission from a parent or parents. Both (or all) parents may give permission in writing for the sign out and pickup. Schools prefer to have written permission on the day that a child’s pickup will change, but schools may also keep written permission on file. School offices may keep the permission notes--and are asked to attach them to the emergency care card(s) of those involved. Schools may also ask for identification when the child is released to the one(s) mentioned in the permission note. It is advisable to communicate with the teacher as well, perhaps with a copy of the signed written note.


What about my child's medication?

If your child takes medication regularly, You, the parent, should make sure that the school has an appropriate amount of additional medication on hand. Talk with your child’s school nurse for more information.


Are students allowed to have cell phones at school?

P-H-M School's cell phone use is based on the individual school code of conduct. In the event of an emergency, students will be allowed to use their phones based on individual school code of conduct rules. It is important to recognize that in an emergency situation, however, cell phone circuits may become overloaded, interfering with public safety's ability to communicate.


Can I contact my child?

Parents are asked not to call the school in emergency situations so phone lines can remain accessible for handling the specific situation. In the event of a crisis, P-H-M will open a Crisis Call Center to handle the numerous phone calls from parents and public. Parents will be kept informed via School Messenger, the school and/or District website, and Crisis Call Center (574-258-9561).


What will schools do if there is a biological or H1N1 outbreak?

P-H-M has worked with the St. Joseph County Health Department on the community wide response. Coordination with local, state and federal agencies will take place.


How will my children know what to do in the event of a immediate danger?

Inform your children that, if a crisis occurs while they are in school, their teacher will provide them with appropriate instructions. All staff are provided training and access to the school crisis plans and drills occur on a monthly basis at all school locations.


Parents are also encouraged to prepare a family disaster plan and practice it so that everyone will remember what to do if a disaster does occur. Everyone in the household, including children, should play a part in the families response and recovery efforts. Teach your children how to recognize danger signals. Make sure your children know what smoke detectors, fire alarms, and local community warning systems (horns, sirens) sound like.


Will children be allowed to view events via live television or radio reports?

In the event of a large scale event or other crisis, teachers will be informed as to the appropriate actions to take. Receiving live media coverage in the classroom about an attack or crisis will be left up to the administrators and teachers discretion. Appropriate measures will be taken depending on the age of the students.


How are field trips handled?

The impact of any critical situation on field trips--both district wide and at individual schools--will depend on the specifics of the situation. If the situation warrants, all field trips will be canceled. Cancelations could also include travel to schools, community programs, and other events. There may be circumstances that could require the cancelation of field trips to certain areas. All school buses are equipped with radio communications with the transportation office. If a field trip is under way and must be recalled, buses would be directed to return to the school or a designated safe area. Parents are reminded that P-H-M retains the right to cancel any field trip for safety reasons.


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